Weston C.I. wins Best Buddies award.

Best Buddies is a Canada-wide program that pairs up the same-aged students of differing abilities. These partnerships grow into friendships and are mutually beneficial. On Thursday, February 11, an assembly at the school demonstrated the strength and depth of those relationships.

Executive Director of Best Buddies Canada, Steven Pinnock was there to honour Weston Collegiate Institute‘s successful implementation of the program over the past six years. Program buddies are paired for each school year and contact each other weekly and meet socially at least twice a month. Larger meetings of the whole chapter are held to discuss issues and to plan events.

W.C.I. was also honoured for being in the top 25 programs out of 450 chapters nationwide in Canada. Youth worker, Nancy Marshall co-ordinates Best Buddies at the school and thanked the many members of staff who lend their time to supporting the program as well as events and field trips. Pinnock thanked Ms. Marshall for her leadership and the staff for their hard work in making the program run so successfully at the school. Best Buddies Special Events Director, Emily Bolyea–Kyere spoke glowingly about the outstanding work done at W.C.I. and how well the school is regarded throughout the organization.

Students spoke movingly about the program and the impact it has made on their school lives; many calling the friends made through the program as close as family members. Having sat through many an assembly in a former life, I can attest to rarely being as impressed (and moved) as I was today. Well done to Ms. Marshall and participating staff and students at W.C.I.

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Best Buddies participants 2015-16. 3rd from left, Executive Director Steven Pinnock. Far right, Principal Ian Botnick. Next to him, Nancy Marshall. Far right, seated Emily Bolyea-Kyere. Click to enlarge.

 

WCI IB students attend their annual Tamakwa trip

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September 23, 2014 – Early on a Tuesday morning, a sleepy crowd of grade nine IB students equipped with a plethora of backpacks, sleeping bags, and rolling suitcases piled onto the front of Weston Collegiate Institute. After being herded into three coach buses aptly parked out front, the lot sped down Pine Street and made their three-hour long drive to Algonquin Park.

At the beginning of each school year, the freshmen and the graduating class of the Weston International Baccalaureate program attend a trip to Camp Tamakwa, a camp located within Algonquin Provincial Park. The camping trip acts as a fun orientation into the program for the grade nines, allowing them to create lasting friendships and feel comfortable with their transition into Weston. For the grade twelves, this final return to Camp Tamakwa will test their leadership skills and give them a chance to pass down any knowledge and experience to their younger peers.

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Discovering that many of the campers had an inner spider monkey.

Flanked by a gorgeous, nearly overwhelming array of trees changing colours, the students were first organized into multiple groups, each bearing the name of a mighty Canadian animal. After a few icebreakers, their homemade chants could be heard echoing across campgrounds. Together, the students rotated through the camp facilities, actively engaging themselves in teamwork and leadership oriented activities for the next four days.

They tackled the rock wall, many climbing for their first time. Only after toughing out a hike through the park’s foliage and muddy trails were the students offered picturesque views from various points across Tea Lake. In addition to learning a dance routine for a huge flash mob to Calvin Harris’ I Met You in the Summer, the groups prepared unique skits, riddled with jokes geared at fellow campers and teachers, to be performed on the last night. Scheduled meals were always waiting for them in the dining hall, completed with a dessert after every dish.

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Hikes through the forest.

At night, ghost stories were exchanged, and several Tamakwa staff members from Wales and Manchester took their turns at imitating a Canadian accent while watching over the students at the campfire. The lack of city light pollution painted the night skies with a thick blanket of stars and celestial bodies (we all pretended like we saw the same constellations when in truth, there were too many jumbles of stars to make out anything). And, during the night hike, a few screams and surprises along the pitch-black trail made the seemingly calm walk through the forest very interesting.

But none of these activities would be possible without the hard work and supervision of the grade twelve IB students.

The annual Tamakwa trip illustrates a tale of continuity – the students enter as reluctant freshmen from different schools, all anxiously worrying about the program’s workload and the idea of making friends seeming foreign. After the first Tamakwa trip, they’ll parade through Weston halls laughing loudly with their newfound friends whilst feeling a new level of comfort they wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.

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“I think the best part [of the trip] was the bonds we created together,” Jordana Dhanpaul, a grade nine pre-IB student reflects. “If I didn’t go, I probably would’ve had only a close group of friends and not the family of grade nines, elevens, and twelves that I do now.”

Forward three years later and the same students will return again as mentors. They’ll look at the batch of grade nines, clustered in their own small clumps of friends and recall their own uncertainty around new faces. Equipped with the experience of the IB program and the responsibility to make Tamakwa as memorable as their own freshmen year, they’ll work around the clock to sort groups, prepare activities, and build a timely schedule. Of course, WCI IB director, Ms. Dale, works relentlessly to make sure the paperwork and administrative portion runs smoothly as well.

Ruchi Vijh, an IB student of the graduating class recalls on her own Tamakwa 2014 experience – this time as a mentor. “For the third time I was to go back to Camp Tamakwa. Now one might think that I would be tired of going there but it was quite the opposite. Going in grade twelve as a leader was probably the most exciting because now it was our turn to run the week for the new grade nine students at Weston. After  previous weeks of planning and going over various activities, it was rewarding for all of us to see how smoothly and enjoyable the events worked out.

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A teamwork activity – bringing all the campers safely to the other side of the tree without touching a single rope.

“Personally, I was fortunate enough to be a group leader and bond with the grade nines in my group – I even managed to lose my voice from cheering too much! Seeing all the grade nines and even grade twelves become comfortable with one another enough to perform on the final night for the talent show was amazing to see as well! Overall this trip was a memorable experience that I will never forget.”

My own experience as a grade eleven mentor shed a new outlook on the annual Tamakwa trip. In grade nine, I was ecstatic to make new friends and delighted at the family-atmosphere we quickly adapted. Now assigned as a group leader, I took immense pride in watching my kids unfold from the first-day awkwardness to full comfort, belting out our Beaver cheer every chance they could and cracking jokes alongside each other. Previously quiet niners, who were unwilling to talk during icebreakers, were now helping the skit’s plot take form and dictating group control in the teambuilding games.

It was heartwarming and fulfilling to know that my grade nine experience was being relived again by a new batch of bright students, and that these kids too would grow within the IB program to pass on their leadership and positivity.

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This post is brought to you by:

Maureen Lennon, who is happy to encourage great writing by young Westonians!

Weston CI earns D-

Weston Collegiate, the secondary school in Weston, did not do well in the latest round of school rankings.

The Grade 9 students at Weston CI were asked to do a mathematics test and a literacy test earlier this year. The results are discouraging.

In math, Weston CI students continue to perform worse than their peers at the city and provincial levels. 23% of CI applied math students met the provincial standard. While this is a dramatic improvement over last year’s number (13%), our students still performed much worse than their counterparts in the province (42%) and board (30%).

Academic math students were also bested. 71% of Weston’s students met the standard. 83% of the province did, as did 81% of the board.

This is the fifth straight year that Weston CI students have not measured up. Not once, in fact, have Weston students in either the academic or applied streams performed as well in mathematics as their peers.

Weston CI’s literacy results were only slightly better. This year, 74% of students met the provincial literacy standard. The board (81%) and the province (83%) still did better.

Once, however, in April of 2009, some Weston students did as well as some of their peers. In 2009, 75% of male CI grade 9 students met the provincial standards. Only 70% of the board did—though the province as a whole still pipped CI by a single point.